Section: Editorial

Staff Editorial

Over the last few years, the College has issued numerous statements about Title IX on campus, most notably announcing an external audit of our Title IX/VAWA policy procedures two days after a Kenyon alumnus publicly accused College officials of mishandling a sexual assault case involving his sister, a former student.

The overall message has been one that attempts to own and remedy mistakes. But it is also one that often avoids culpability for these problems, favoring constant review over substantive change.

This week, everything changed.

A News Bulletin distributed via Student-Info email on Tuesday informed the Kenyon community that the College is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for its handling of Title IX issues.

Presumably, the College initiated the Title IX audit last semester to avoid such a scenario. The audit is independent of the College, but it is still funded by College money. (The same applies to the current audit of our Clery Act compliance, which was not prompted by any specific concerns, according to President Sean Decatur.)

We have heard multiple statements assuring us the College will fully comply with the investigation. This is a rather empty consolation, because what else can they do? Full compliance doesn’t negate the fact that the College has done something (or, at least, been accused of doing something) of a great enough magnitude to catch the attention of the Office for Civil Rights. No institution likes to admit wrongdoing, but we were dismayed to hear no reasoning or explanation from administrators regarding what inspired this investigation in the first place. We find it hard to believe that they would have no idea.

The Title IX audit and the Department of Education investigation suggest that despite Kenyon’s best assertions, our College may not be doing enough. Instead of relying on other sources to tell us what we could be doing better, we would like to see administrators make more substantial, publicized efforts to update policies and improve implementation.

We know Kenyon best, so it makes sense that at least some changes should come from within our own community. All this would require is talking to students: In our private conversations with friends, we’ve heard complaints about poor communication with survivors, jarringly impersonal interactions with administrators and investigations that drag on for much longer than survivors ever anticipated. These are issues that could have been addressed long before the Office for Civil Rights even knew where Gambier was.

Instead, we’re now under an investigation of a national scale with no end in sight, and that colors our campus life. We hope this teaches the administration that we need to make changes before problems arise. The College’s promise of “full compliance” with the investigation does not erase the obfuscations of the past.

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